As demonstrated with the scholarship that bears his name, Hennessy also takes a personal interest in education, which plays a big role in the tech sector. He told CNBC that there is a lot on pressure on the federal government to help finance higher education — something Hennessy stated needs to change as student debt burdens soar.
“I think it is a mistake to let the burdens of the federal government budget fall, disproportionately, on people under the age of 25,” he said, even as he called higher education “a good investment.”
Still, federal loans for graduate students are limited — hence the reason why students like Oyakhire can benefit from funding like the Knight-Hennessy scholarship.
The environment for international students getting a U.S. education has gotten tougher. In 2017, the rate of international graduate students coming to the United States dropped by 7 percent. According to a survey of 500 college campuses done by the Institute of International Education, 45 percent of campuses reported a drop in international student enrollment.
“I think what you are seeing is some of the rhetoric aimed at international visitors and international students, maybe makes them less comfortable coming to the U.S.,” Hennessy told CNBC. “They would rather go somewhere where they feel more welcomed,” he said, emphasizing that America still has the best higher education in the world.
He also suggested that President Donald Trump’s immigration policy could affect Silicon Valley in a negative way. “You just look down at Silicon Valley and at the string of companies that have had at least one of their founders born outside on the United States,” he said. “Intel, Google, Yahoo, they all had someone from their founding team born outside the U.S.”
Abuzar Royesh, a Knight-Hennessy scholarship recipient from Afghanistan who plans to study international relations, told CNBC that “it’s important to have different people with different backgrounds be a part of shaping the discourse.”
Hennessy said if the U.S. loses the ability to bring and attract immigrants “it will hurt all of our ability to be the leader in the future.”
This year’s class of scholars come from 20 different countries. Next year, the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship program will accept 75 student from around the world.